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Malmö performance of Mahler’s Fifth ends in brawl

A fist fight broke out at a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.5 in Malmö on Thursday night, after a listener was sent into a rage by another rustling a bag of gum.

Malmö performance of Mahler's Fifth ends in brawl
Andris Nelsons and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Photo: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
The conflict began shortly after the renowned Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons brought the bombastic introduction to the fourth movement to a shuddering halt, leading his Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra deftly into the movement's slow, atmospheric adagietto, wrote the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
 
At this point that the rustling on the second balcony became apparent, ruining the effect of the gently soaring strings and softly plucked harp for all sitting nearby. 
 
After a few minutes, a young man sitting next to the woman with the chewing gum lost patience, snatched the bag from her hands and threw it to the floor. 
 
A witness told the Sydsvenskan that the woman had appeared chastened, sitting in silence throughout the rest of the 70-minute romantic epic, the performance of which has been likened to climbing Mount Everest. 
 
The moment the music stopped, however, she took her revenge. 
 
“When the applause broke out, the woman turned towards the man and said something,” Britt Aspenlind, who was sitting two rows behind the pair, told the newspaper. “The woman gave the younger man a slap right in his face. He became angry and started fighting back.” 
 
Another witness said that the blow had been powerful enough to knock the man's glasses from his face. The woman's companion, an older man, then seized him by his shirt, and began to throw punches in his direction. 
 
Olof Jönsson, who was sitting in the row behind, described the onslaught as “a violent attack”. “It was very unpleasant actually. I've never seen anything like it,” he told Sydsvenskan. 
 
Eventually, the other audience members managed to calm the two sides down and they went home. 
 
After news of the brawl was published in Sydsvenskan, the concert venue Malmö Live posted a light-hearted list of concert etiquette. 
 
“Everyone thinks it is wonderful to sit at a hockey or football match and drink a beer or coffee and eat little snacks…” it said. “In a concert hall with world class acoustics it is not however suitable to bring rustling bags of crisps.” 
 
Anna-Maria Havskogen, the venue's communication chief, said she had felt that this was a rare moment when the venue could bring such matters to the public's attention. 
 
“We seized the opportunity and felt that it was a good situation to write something up about etiquette and correct behaviour,” she said. “Normally we have no such misbehaviour, you could say, but we realized the news value.” 
 
Asked whether the venue had other concerts planned which might be considered high risk, Havskogen initially said there were none, before following up with a text message sent to the newspaper. 
 
“Possibly Verdi's Requiem on November 1st and 2nd could be a high-risk concert actually,” she wrote. “Extremely powerful, will awaken strong feelings….”

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SHOOTINGS

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police

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In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”

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